Radiohead Gets R&B Treatment on OK Lady EP

September 10, 2015
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Some bands have based their entire musical career (at least their early years) trying to sound like Radiohead – we’re looking at you, Coldplay, Travis, and Muse. Meanwhile, more talented artists opt for the harder task of re-imagining and giving their own particular take on the band’s classic songs.

Take, for example, Mehldau’s “Exit Music (For A Film),” which is arguably the best jazz take on Radiohead. Vampire Weekend does something completely different on their cover of that song, which blends the eerie sound of a flute with a driving post-punk beat. And it actually works. Now, I’m no John Mayer fan, but I will admit that the guy can play guitar. And his breathy bedroom voice does make for a very interesting take on “Kid A.”

There are plenty of interesting covers, including some by Regina Spektor, Sia, Frank Ocean, Weezer, and Gnarls Barkley.  What I’ve always wondered is what Radiohead would sound like if the band members weren’t so British and so, um, white. (Actually no, I’ve never wondered that, but for the sake of this piece let’s pretend I have.) In the capable hands of Roman GianArthur, who has decidedly different vocal stylings than Thom Yorke, the result is actually amazing. He breathes new life into this songs and almost makes you forget that someone else sang them first.

Roman GianArthur is a producer/composer/singer/arranger on Janelle Monáe’s Wondaland Records, which also counts singer Jidenna on its roster. Roman’s latest is OK Lady, a 6-song EP of Radiohead covers in the key of Stevie Wonder-meets Prince-meets D’Angelo. Roman works his magic on “All I Need,” “Interlude,” “Paranoid Android,” “High & Dry,” “No Surprises” and “Nude.” Roman sometimes gets a little carried away with the Purple Rain style guitar solos, but for the most part the arrangements work really well, particularly on “ALL:NEED,” “PARANO:D,” and “SEND:TON.”

Stream the EP here.